In which I give thanks for the Chicken of Life

Last Sunday, I had the kids in my faith formation class draw a picture of a Thanksgiving feast at their house. Most drew a table, some food and family and friends gathered around. Then I had them draw a picture of the Mass and nudged them toward drawing a similar scene. We talked about how the altar is a table, as well as a place of sacrifice, and how the food is Jesus, and all of mankind is one family.

I was working my way up to the central idea—that “Eucharist” literally means “Thanksgiving.” But the lesson did not really land because most of the kids did not know the word “Eucharist” yet. Also, some of them did not know what “Mass” meant, and some of them did not know what to draw since they were going over to their mom’s new boyfriend’s house for Thanksgiving, and they weren’t sure if he had a table. One child steadfastly insisted that last time he went to Mass they had wine and chicken. The chicken of life.

And, of course, three of the boys were still convulsing on the rug because, during the story portion of class, I had made the tactical error of showing them an illustration of St. Juan Diego in his tilma, and you could sort of see part of his butt. His butt.

Some weeks, my husband says I come home from teaching with my eyes shining and my face alight. This was not one of those weeks.

On a good week, the kids are spellbound while I tell them that God made the world because he is so overflowing with love, that he just wanted to be even happier by making more things to be good and beautiful and true, which is why he made the stars and the animals and you and me, and all he wants now is to get back together with us again.

On a good week, someone wants to talk about the war in heaven, and another kid pipes up, “But Ms. Simcha, the devil didn’t have to go to hell because he had free will!”

On a good week, we read about how Jesus called the shambling, shocked Lazarus from his dark grave, and one of the boys screws up his face with skepticism and blurts out, “Is this a story true?” and I can look him in the eye and say: “Yes, sweetheart. This is a true story. It’s all true!”

Those are the times when I feel keenly what a privilege it is to be there, to be allowed to feed these eager young Christians who are so hungry for the truths they were made to receive. Sometimes it feels like the cluttered little classroom is blazing with light and I am so glad, so glad to be there with them.

But we do have bad weeks . . . 

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine

Image: Dion Hinchcliffe via Flickr (Creative Commons)


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6 thoughts on “In which I give thanks for the Chicken of Life”

  1. In-article links on America led me to your 2017 article about the demands of secular Thanksgiving, and the phrase “toddle into church like Winnie the Pooh” made me laugh so hard that I nearly woke my baby. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Once a month my brother and I teach the Pre-K kids at our church, and wouldn’t you know it, this Sunday is our week. Thank you for the well-timed words, and happy Thanksgiving : )

  3. Awww, this resonates for me as well, teaching Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for Level 1. Some weeks are really good (‘what did you hear in the scripture today?’ ‘Jesus is the light that will never go out. He’s even with me at night Mrs. K!’). Other weeks, the kids are using materials to recreate the Ninjago battle they saw the other day 😒.

    It’s not a class so much about God as it’s learning how to be ourselves with God. To be honest, I’m very easily distracted too 😆.

  4. I teach a creative writing class at a homeschool co-op, and my husband is a public high school teacher. This really, really resonated. The subject matter isn’t as important of course, but that struggle to reach and engage the kids rather than just hit them over the head with ‘teaching’ is.

    In our area (South Texas, a few hours south of San Antonio) , it’s traditional to go to mass on Thanksgiving morning. It’s usually about as crowded as a Sunday mass, even when masses on actual days of obligation aren’t.

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